Tag Archives: God’s word

Saint Andrew, Apostle

José_de_Ribera_San_AndrésThe Word is Near You

The Gospel of John states that Andrew was first a disciple of John the Baptist:

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).   (John 1:35-41)

What is remarkable about Andrew is that he recognized Jesus as the Messiah almost at once. Andrew was excited to tell his brother Simon Peter. He started his career as a disciple by becoming an evangelist.

He was a very ordinary man – a fisherman along with his brother. Yet his testimony as an apostle of Jesus Christ helped to change the whole world. The Apostle Paul writes:

“Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”   (Romans 10:18)

God calls ordinary people to do extraordinary things in His name. We have also been called to be disciples of Jesus and evangelists. We have been given power and authority to do so.

Where do we start? We start with the Word as did Andrew and all the apostles. Moses explained the power of God’s Word:

Moses said to the people of Israel: Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.   (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)

We have been given a powerful Word from God – Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. He has been placed within our hearts. The Apostle Paul elaborates on what Moses said

“The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart”
(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.   (Romans 10:8-10)

Are we ready to proclaim the Word that changes the hearts of people? We will be ridiculed for doing so, but we will probable not have to endure the suffering and ultimate death by crucifixion as did Andrew. We owe him and all the apostles a great debt of gratitude. Let us remember that in our day many people are dependent upon us to share the good news.

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Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 25

Track 1: From Generation to Generation

Deuteronomy 34:1-12
Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Matthew 22:34-46

The psalmist wrote:

Lord, you have been our refuge
from one generation to another.

Before the mountains were brought forth,
or the land and the earth were born,
from age to age you are God.

You turn us back to the dust and say,
“Go back, O child of earth.”

For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past
and like a watch in the night.   (Psalm 90:1-4)

God is a generational God. He has plans our lives from day to da.He also has a generational plan for our lives as well. He sees the short term, but he also sees in the long term. He delivered the children of Israel from captivity and bondage in Egypt under the leadership of Moses. Generations before he promised Abraham a homeland. God was now delivering on this promise. From todays Old Testament reading:

Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.”   (Deuteronomy 34:1-4)

Moses had completed his assignment. Now it was time to pass the baton to a new generation:

Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses.   (Deuteronomy 34:9)

Joshua would lead the children of Israel into the promise land. He had been trained under Moses. But most importantly, the hand of God was upon him. God always ensures that he has the next leader prepared to step in. But that leader must be willing to endure suffering and trials.

From generation to generation God was unfolding his plan for salvation of Israel and the entire human race. Moving forward several generations we see how God’s plan was coming into focus. The religious leaders during Jesus’ earthly ministry, however, failed to understand what God was doing. They did everything in their power to derail God’s plan. They were asking Jesus questions to trip Jesus up. But they were not ready for Jesus to question them. From today’s Gospel reading:

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet”’?

If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.   (Matthew 22:41-46)

Jesus was telling the Pharisees that God’s plan for humanity began far earlier than King David and extended into a future that would never end. Through Nathan the prophet God promised David:

“When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before you forever. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:12 13,16)

The Pharisees were too short sighted. God was unfolding his plan before them, but they were stuck on themselves. God’s plan for salvation began long before David, long before Abraham. It began at the very beginning of creation. We read in the Book of Revelation that Jesus was the the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). The psalmist wrote:

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,

One generation shall laud your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
The might of your awesome deeds shall be proclaimed,
and I will declare your greatness.
They shall celebrate the fame of your abundant goodness,
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his compassion is over all that he has made.

All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your faithful shall bless you.
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom,
and tell of your power,
to make known to all people your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.   (Psalm 145::3-13)

We may now be living in the last generation. How do we fit into God’s plan? Are we stuck on ourselves? Are we blind to what the Lord is doing? What is our task?

Will we speak of the glory of God’s kingdom? Will we tell of his power, to make known to all people his mighty deeds? Will we tell gospel of Jesus others about God’s everlasting kingdom? God’s generation plan has come down to us. Are we not to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ until he comes again? We may need a  wider vision. We may need a longer timeline, onet hat extends throughout all eternity.

 

 

Track 2; You Shall Be Holy

Leviticus 19:1-2,15-18
Psalm 1
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Matthew 22:34-46

What does the Lord require of us? Reading from Leviticus:

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.   (Leviticus 19:1-2)

What does it mean that God is holy? The Hebrew word for holy is Kodesh (קודש). It means set apart for a specific purpose. God has created the world, but he is greater than his creation. Israel was set apart by God from the other nations of the world to be a kingdom of priests.

What does it mean that we should be holy? We are to be set apart from the world as servants of God. He is of a much higher level than we are, but he wants to raise us up to dwell with him.. We cannot achieve this level on our own. God says to us:

Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy.   (Leviticus 20:7-8)

How does this happen? The psalmist wrote:

Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,
nor lingered in the way of sinners,
nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

Their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and they meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,
bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither;
everything they do shall prosper.   (Psalm 1:1-3)

The most powerful way to effect this change is by letting the Word of God dwell in us richly:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.   (Colossians 3:16

When we embrace scripture without reservation, it will energetically work God’s will in uz. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:

We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.  (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

God’s word is working inus, but we must cooperate.

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

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Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 12

Track 1:  Dishonesty

Genesis 29:15-28
Psalm 105:1-11, 45b
or Psalm 128
Romans 8:26-39
Matthew 13:31-33,44-52

Jacob had tricked his brother Saul our of his birthright. Not only that, he had stolen his Father Isaac’s final blessing. In today’s reading from Genesis we see that he has met his match in his Uncle Laban:

Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” Laban said, “This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.   (Genesis 29:15-28)

Laban was deceptive. He was dishonest. But notice his easy it was for Laban to justify his actions. Is not this like most deceptive people, if they are cornered in their lie.

God the Father hates lies. We read from Provers:

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,
but those who act faithfully are his delight.   (Proverbs 12:22)

Jesus honored those who were truthful:

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”   (John 1:47)

Why do we lie? To understand that we need to go back to the very beginning = the time when the first and worst lie of all was told. From Genesis:

 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.   (Genesis 3;1-6)

Jesus said that Satan is the Father of lies. He was a liar from the begging (John 8:44).. His specialty is deception and twisting the truth of God’s Word. Satan tries to convince us that we do not need God. We can go it alone, beause Satan has imparted wisdom to us. Jacob wanted to go it alone and prove himself. Laban wanted to do the same. This does not breed cooperation and harmony.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.   (2 Corinthians 4:4)

But life teaches us that we cannot go it alone. We are made in God’s image. We must live in partnership with God. Jesus has come to reestablish that partnership. He paid a great price that we might. It is up to us, however, to hold on to that truth.

We live iu an age of great deception. Politicians assure us that they are telling the truth, when the truth is far from them. The news media tells one lie father another. When they are caught they never apologize. Even Church leaders misleads us and attempt to manipulate us. Now, more than ever, we need to seek the truth of God’s Word. Only that will set us free. Jesus said:

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”   (John 8:30-32)

Let us continue to be the light of Christ in a very dark world.

 

 

Track 2: The Pearl at Great Price

1 Kings 3:5-12
Psalm 119:129-136
Romans 8:26-39
Matthew 13:31-33,44-52

Jesus taught in many parables. This is one of my favorite from today’s Gospel reading:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”   (Matthew 13:45-46)

What does this parable tell us about the kingdom of heaven? It tells us that the kingdom is available to us. But, like the merchant, we must want it and search for it. From the Prophet Jeremiah:

Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,   (Jeremiah 29:12-13)

From the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew’s Gospel:

Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.   (Matthew 6:31-33)

There is a price involved on our part. The merchant sold all that he had to purchase the pearl of great value. The kingdom is of such high value that it is more valuable than anything we might have. I( we do not value the kingdom then we may miss it. But when we find the kingdom we will never want to lose it. The psalmist wrote:

Your decrees are wonderful;
therefore I obey them with all my heart.

When your word goes forth it gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.

I open my mouth and pant;
I long for your commandments.

 Turn to me in mercy,
as you always do to those who love your Name.

Steady my footsteps in your word;
let no iniquity have dominion over me.   (Psalm 119:129-133)

We are living in a very dark time. In fact, the darkness is increasing. Now, more than ever, we need God. The Prophet Isaiah wrote:

Seek the Lord while he may be found,
    call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
    and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.   (Isaiah 55:6-7)

God is drawing near to us, The final harvest will soon be upon us. Where do we stand? Have we found the kingdom? Have we found the Lord? If so, what price do we bring to him? He has given us his all. He has redeemed us by the blood of his Son Jesus. He is ready to reconcile us to himself: The Apostle Paul wrote:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.   (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)

Are we in Christ today? Today is the day of salvation. Today beings the kingdom of heaven for all who believe and embrace the Lord Jesus. He is the treasure. He is the kingdom.

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Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

Choose Life

How serious is it for us to faithfully keep the commandments of God? For the Children of Israel it was a matter of life and death. Before they entered the promised land, Moses gave them this warning:

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.  (Deuteronomy 30:15-18)

This is the God of the Old Testament we might be thinking. Surely the God of the New Testament would not sound so severe? Let us examine some of the words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount contained in today’s Gospel:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.   (Matthew 5:27-30)

Does Jesus sound any less severe? Sin and death or righteousness and life. We have a choice. We can choose one or the other. Our choice is all important.

If we have to rely only on our human nature then we are lost. The Apostle Paul warned:

Brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh.   (1 Corinthians 3:1-2)

Our human nature often does not want solid food. That was true for the Church in Corinth. They were caught up in jealousy and quarreling. Paul continues:

For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

The Church in Corinth had gotten off track. They were arguing over who was the true apostle. Do we not argue over which church is the true church? Let us concern ourselves over who can give the growth. God will do his part to help us, but we must do our part. We must seek him above all else. He has given his Son Jesus to wipe away our sins and the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. A part from him we can do nothing good.

God warns the Israelites and all of us by his word given through Moses:

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.   (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

We cannot choose life without seeking the God of life. We must seek his word daily. In the Lord’s Prayer we ask: “Give us this day our daily prayer.” Jesus said:

‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”   (Matthew 4:4)

The psalmist wrItes:

With my whole heart I seek you;
do not let me stray from your commandments.
I treasure your word in my heart,
so that I may not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes.
With my lips I declare
all the ordinances of your mouth.
I delight in the way of your decrees
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts,
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.   (Psalm 119:10-16

We must seek the aid of the Holy Spirit as well. The Apostle Paul writes;

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.   (Romans 8:2-6)

Worldly people do not struggle with sin, only the disciples of Jesus Christ. He is at our side to help us. Let us choose life!

Happy are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!

Happy are they who observe his decrees
and seek him with all their hearts!   (Psalm 119:1-2)

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